A Tremor in the Blood: Uses and Abuses of the Lie Detector

A Tremor in the Blood: Uses and Abuses of the Lie Detector

A Tremor in the Blood: Uses and Abuses of the Lie Detector

A Tremor in the Blood: Uses and Abuses of the Lie Detector

Synopsis

Over the past 60 years, the mystique of the polygraph, or lie detector machine, has caused far too many people to be hoodwinked into blind acceptance of this device. Foisted on the public by its developers and their disciples as an infallible arbiter of truth, this machine is cloaked in a mantle of pseudo-science. However, despite its reputation, scientific evidence indicates that the polygraph is about as accurate as tossing a coin. In this clear, lively, and interesting book, David Lykken explains why our press and government nevertheless continue to believe in what the late Senator Sam Ervin, of Watergate fame, described as "20th Century witchcraft".

Lest anyone be lulled into complacency, by the prevalence of the lie detector, the author presents case histories of persons whose lives have been blighted by our uniquely American faith in the myth of the polygraph. Dr. Lykken also explains how to "beat" the machine, not only because it is unfair that spies and Mafia soldiers already know these techniques, but also because innocent persons have a nearly 50:50 chance of failing lie detector tests unless they use appropriate countermeasures.

Excerpt

The first edition of this book was also the first and only monograph on this important topic written by a scientist for the edification of interested non-scientists, including lawyers and policy-makers. When Michael Hennelly of Plenum suggested that I consider preparing a new edition, I realized that many interesting developments had occurred in this field in the past two decades. No actual "lie detectors" have been invented but some of the old ones have been patched up, relabeled, and touted as improvements. The myth of the polygraph has been married to the mystique of the computer, a dangerous liaison that has spawned a litter of mischievous mythlets. Since 1980, I have testified as an expert witness for the purpose of impeaching lie detector findings in criminal trials and courts-martial from Alaska to Florida. I have been contacted by hundreds of victims of mistaken lie detector tests or by their attorneys. Many of their stories provide illustrative material -- illustrations that I think are truly disturbing.

I have testified in support of anti-polygraph legislation before committees of state legislatures, the United States House and Senate and I hope I contributed in a small way to the eventual passage of the federal Employee Polygraph Protection Act of 1988. This statute prevents most employers in the private sector from requiring job applicants or current employees to submit to polygraph screening tests. Police and all federal employees are excluded from this protection, however. The result has been that many honorable people, the people I would like to see on our police forces and in our federal police and security agencies, have been falsely branded and excluded as "deceptive" by arrogant polygraph examiners. Polygraph examiners, most of whom are honorable people, are made arrogant by the . . .

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